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How the F1 teams will approach the Italian Grand Prix

How the F1 teams will approach the Italian Grand Prix
Sep 5, 2012, 9:10 PM

With an average lap speed of over 250km/h, Monza is the fastest circuit in Formula 1.

With an average lap speed of over 250km/h, Monza is the fastest circuit in Formula 1. The cars run in low downforce mode here with thinner wings than usual. The aerodynamic package for this event is unique in the season.

So what are the key considerations the engineers and drivers will go through during practice and in strategy briefings when preparing for Sunday's race?

From a strategy point of view, Monza is quite straightforward. It’s not particularly hard on the tyres as there are few fast corners to put energy into them. The track is basically a series of long straights, punctuated with chicanes. There are only three corners in a traditional sense; the two Lesmo bends and the Parabolica.

However the wheel rotation speeds are very high so overheating can be an issue and if the track temperature is high, this can create problems. Pirelli counter this heat build up by using a thinner gauge on the tread block; it is 0.3mm thinner. This year they are bringing medium and hard compounds, last year it was soft and medium.

Because the tyres are more conservative than last year, the track is fast and the pit lane time is long at over 22 seconds, the teams aim to make as few pitstops if possible, ideally trying to do the race in one stop. Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel did it at Spa last weekend on these tyres, so its should be straightforward at Monza, unless it gets hot.

Last year the FIA decided that there should be two DRS zones in the race, so the pursuing car could open his rear wing to shed drag and attempt an overtake. One was on the main straight, the other between the Lesmo bends and Ascari corner. One of the key decisions was how to balance the use of the DRS wing (giving a 6-8km/h speed boost) while not hitting the rev limiter which is set at 18,000 rpm.

Falling behind a car which has good top speed, but is slow on lap time is very damaging for the strategy as we saw last year with Hamilton stuck behind Schumacher, so qualifying and starting well are vitally important.

There is a lot of hard braking at Monza. Although stability under braking is critical, brake wear is not the problem it used to be because of improvements in cooling systems. The long straights give the brakes a chance to recover.

When you have read the strategy briefing why not go to our Race STRATEGY CALCULATOR to see if you can find the fastest strategy for the Italian Grand Prix?

Track characteristics

Monza – 5.793 kilometres. Race distance - 53 laps = 306.72 kilometres. 11 corners in total. Average speed 247km/h. Historic race track in a Royal Park.

Aerodynamic setup – Low downforce. Top speed 340km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) - 334km/h without.

Full throttle – 75% of the lap (high). Total fuel needed for race distance – 135 kilos (ave). Fuel consumption – 2.5kg per lap (ave)

Time spent braking: 11% of lap. Number of brake zones – 6. Brake wear- High.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 18 seconds (ave/high)

Total time needed for pit stop: 22 seconds (ave/high)

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (ave/high)

Form Guide

The Italian Grand Prix is the thirteenth round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

After an early season where the wins were spread around, recently things have consolidated with McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari taking the spoils, with Lotus challenging too. McLaren has now won four races, Red Bull and Ferrari three each, Mercedes and Williams one apiece.

Red Bull has never had the best straight line speeds, but managed to win the race last year due to clever gearing which kept Vettel ahead on acceleration out of the chicanes, so the pursuing cars couldn't get close to him. He will not enjoy that luxury this year. Jenson Button took a dominant win in Spa last weekend and has been competitive in Italy the last few years.

From a driver perspective, Fernando Alonso won the Italian Grand Prix on his debut season with Ferrari in 2010, his second Monza win.

Michael Schumacher won the race five times for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel won in a Toro Rosso in 2008 and again last year in a Red Bull.

Weather Forecast

The weather forecast predicts a warm and sunny weekend with temperatures of 29 degrees. This will be a relief to teams, who have lost three and a half Fridays in the last four Grands Prix to rain.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Monza: medium (white markings) and hard (silver markings). This combination was seen in Malaysia and Belgium.

Monza is not a track that causes high wear rates on the tyres. What the teams have to watch out for is thermal degradation caused by very high wheel rotation speeds. When the car is travelling at in excess of 330km/kh, it’s easy to overheat the inside shoulder of the tyres, causing blisters. The stress from this in Monza will be 30% higher than Spa.

Track temperatures tend to fluctuate a lot at Monza, as it is the early Autumn so with cloud cover the temperature drops, while it quickly heats up in direct sun. With this year’s temperature-sensitive Pirelli tyres, this could cause some problems for some teams.

The medium tyre is expected to be around 0.2 secs per lap faster than the hard tyre in race conditions.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Monza was always a one stop race in the past when refueling was allowed in F1 - the tank size and design was based on what would be needed to stop once at Monza - and the signs are with this year’s more durable Pirelli tyres that the target will be to one-stop again.

The main reason is that the time needed for a pit stop at Monza is on the high side at over 22 seconds. It’s a long pit lane and the cars on track exit the final corner at over 200km/h and go down the pit straight at over 300km/h.

With tyre wear not expected to be a major problem, the likelihood is that teams will start on the medium, stop once around 20-23 laps moving onto the hard compound for a stint of around 30 laps.

Drivers who qualify out of the top ten positions and have new tyres at their disposal will have a small advantage in the opening stint, being able to run a little longer. This could help a team like Sauber which has good race pace and good tyre life.

Chance of a safety car

The chance of a safety car at Monza is statistically very low at 43% and 0.4 Safety Cars per race. There was however a Safety car three years in a row recently from 2007- 9.

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result. Much can change. In Hungary, for example, only three drivers completed lap 1 in the same position as their grid slot.

As far as 2011 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:

NB - Belgian Grand Prix start not included in sample as many cars eliminated in first lap, skewing the sample results


+25 Massa *****

+ 23 Glock,

+19 Perez***

+18 Alonso, Kovalainen

+15 Senna * *****

+14 Vergne

+13 Pic

+11 Raikkonen

+10 Karthikeyan

+7 Kobayashi****

+5 Schumacher* ******

+4 Hamilton , Maldonado****

+3 Di Resta *****, De la Rosa ****, Petrov*****

+2 Button

Held position: Vettel, Webber


-1 Hulkenberg Rosberg

-3 Grosjean** **** *****

-15 Ricciardo*

Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start.

* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia

** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap

***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field

**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco

***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start

***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back

****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. The record is a 2.31s stop in the German GP by McLaren.

It is clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Belgian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The league positions from the previous race are in brackets.

1. McLaren 2.5 secs (2)

2. Toro Rosso 3.1secs (4)

3. Lotus 3.12secs (6)

4. Ferrari 3.13secs (3)

5. Red Bull 3.21secs (1)

6. Mercedes 3.36secs (8)

7. Marussia 3.48secs (10)

8. Force India 3.52secs (9)

9. Caterham 4.01secs (11)

10. Sauber 4.50secs (7)

11. Williams 4.52secs(5)

12. HRT 4.896secs (12)

Now you have read the strategy briefing why not go to our Race STRATEGY CALCULATOR to see if you can find the fastest strategy for the Italian Grand Prix?

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams' strategists and from Pirelli

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